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The Weinstein Co.’s next movie, Fruitvale Station, went through a small title change recently, going from Fruitvale at Sundance to its current incarnation.
But it’s the title dispute on another Weinstein Co. film, Lee Daniels‘ The Butler, set to be released Aug. 16, that’s been occupying Hollywood’s attention.
The MPAA’s Title Registration Bureau ruled in an arbitration Tuesday that The Weinstein Co. couldn’t use the title for its upcoming film because a 1916 short in the Warner Bros. library shares the same name. The Weinstein Co. is appealing the arbitrator’s ruling.
Since then, lawyers for Weinstein and Warner Bros. have exchanged angry letters, with TWC attorney David Boies claiming extortion on the part of Warners in a recent e-mail and threatening a restraining order and an antitrust violation claim.
While Harvey Weinstein has been letting Boies argue the company’s case, the movie mogul weighed in on the controversy at Monday night’s Fruitvale Station screening.
“I am shocked at what happened on The Butler,” Weinstein told The Hollywood Reporter. “It’s amazing to me how a 1916 short called The Butler is knocking out a movie that deals with civil rights. I have no idea what’s going on with that. They’re not making another Butler. I don’t know what they’re doing or what their reason is.”
Weinstein ultimately predicted that his film would prevail.
“I think they’ll see The Butler and they’ll see Lee Daniels’ great work and then I don’t think they’ll penalize the movie,” he said.
Butler cast member Cuba Gooding Jr. was also at the screening but didn’t speak to reporters.
Meanwhile, the cast and producers of Fruitvale Station, which is already being mentioned as a possible awards contender, were grateful that TWC enabled them to share with the world the tragic true story of a young black man gunned down by a police officer in the Bay Area.
Prior to TWC buying the film for $2.5 million at Sundance, financing came from private investors and grants, producers noted.
But even star Octavia Spencer helped solve some of the film’s early money woes.
“When we were shooting and we were on a shoestring budget, we had a great deal of funding fall out,” Spencer said. “And I didn’t want [writer/director] Ryan [Coogler] to have to compromise any of his vision. So I started making calls…and we got the money back that we’d lost.”
Fruitvale Station, starring Michael B. Jordan, Melonie Diaz and Spencer, hits theaters Friday.
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